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With the threat of snow looming on the horizon, the facilities management team at Weber State University is preparing for the worst. Plans are being drawn, vehicles are prepped and maintained, and staff is on standby for the first snowfall of the year.
“The rule of the thumb is at one inch of snow, we get the call and mobilize,” said Brian Hadley, WSU’s landscape manager. “Priority is ranked from access first, so it’s roads, parking lots, and then sidewalks and stairs. Campus access is paramount. You have to get people here, you have to get them parked, and you have to get them to class.”
WSU operates 15 snow-removal vehicles, ranging from 1-ton trucks and full-sized F-450s, down to snow blowers and ATVs mounted with plows. Hadley, known as the “Snow Boss,” said he reacts and adapts to circumstance and needs as they arise throughout the day.
“We watch the weather reports very closely, we take them very seriously, and if there’s even a chance of snow, we mount up the plows and are ready to go,” Hadley added.
For WSU Facilities Management, preparation for the upcoming winter begins as the current winter ends. Hadley and his crew assess the needs of the equipment, and removal tools are evaluated and replaced if necessary. By June, preparations are in full swing and melting salts and other supplies are stocked and in place.
“We strip every plow down, replace most of the bolts, check every weld, take the frames apart, double-check for wear and tear, and then put everything back together again,” stated Hal Charlesworth, WSU’s manager of vehicle repair. “Students expect the roads to be as clear as they can be, that’s our ultimate goal, and preparation is key. It’s a team effort; even the custodians come out to help shovel.”
During the winter months, snow removal staff is on call 24/7. When maintenance isn’t being performed, drivers are being trained to handle their vehicles in adverse conditions. Regardless of experience or years of employment, veteran drivers undergo yearly training to sharpen their skills and prepare them for the upcoming winter. Drivers practice backing up in harsh conditions, learn the limitations of their vehicles, and are taught how to adapt to frozen mirrors and limited visibility to be as prepared as possible regardless of the circumstances.
“It’s intense, it’s a rush,” said Kathy Young, a former removal driver of 14 years. “When a storm’s coming, you know you’re not going to get much sleep. All you can do is wait and watch until you get that call. It could be at midnight, 2 in the morning, or right before classes are about to start. You never know, and you just have to be ready.”
As winter quickly approaches, students are advised to take their own preparations into account.
“The best thing students could do is to make sure they wear the right equipment when they come to school,” Charlesworth said, “good snow boots and warm clothes, and just be a little patient, because we can’t be 10 places at once.”